Navigating College Dreams: Using Florida Prepaid College Plans with The Bright Futures Scholarship

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(Last Updated On: March 21, 2024)

Florida Prepaid Open Enrollment is happening now and Prepaid Plan prices are the lowest they have been in 10 years! Learn more about how to use your Prepaid Plan in conjunction with the Bright Futures Scholarship. This post is sponsored by Florida Prepaid College Plans, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Using Florida Prepaid College Plans with The Bright Futures Scholarship

We did it! We are successfully into the Spring semester at college. I say we because making it here is definitely a joint effort from students and parents. Yes, the studying and the hard work comes from your student, but there’s also a lot of studying and hard work that comes from us parents.

You all know that we got my son a Florida 529 Prepaid College Plan when he was just 6 months old. It was paid off by the time he was 10 years old. Our budget allowed for us to do the tuition only plan, one of the things I love about Florida Prepaid College Plans is that they have options for everyone’s budget!

Since we knew his tuition was paid for and I knew that Florida Prepaid Plans worked great with scholarships, our goal was to explain to our kids early on how important it was to get good grades because we have this fabulous scholarship here in Florida called Bright Futures that all Florida residents can qualify for with a few requirements (more on that below). Of course, we still had Steven apply for as many scholarships we could find, but the great thing about Bright Futures is that it is open to all Florida residents who meet the requirements.

So I am going to share a little bit more about Bright Futures, then will share how we used it this year in conjunction with our Florida Prepaid Plan.

Oh wait, real quick, before we get into the scholarship piece, did you know that Florida 529 Prepaid College Plans are celebrating their 35th anniversary and YOU can celebrate by taking advantage of the lowest Prepaid Plan prices in 10 years! Prepaid Plan prices start at just $34 for the enrollment window ending 4/30. Learn more how you can get started saving.

Using Florida Prepaid College Plans with The Bright Futures

What’s the Buzz about Bright Futures?

For all you parents out there, I’m sure you’ve heard about this magical scholarship that can help lighten the financial load of higher education. Well, it’s true! The Bright Futures Scholarship is a gem in the Florida education system, designed to reward our bright young minds with a well-deserved financial boost.

So, What Exactly is Bright Futures?

Bright Futures is a scholarship program that provides funding for Florida residents pursuing higher education here in the Sunshine State. It helps to make the dream of college education more achievable for our kiddos. Bright Futures scholarships are  designed to help with tuition costs for Florida residents.

Florida Prepaid and Bright Futures

Bright Futures Three Tiers

One of the fantastic aspects of Bright Futures is that it comes in three different tiers,  providing more options for our students! The requirements are established by the Florida Department of Education. Here are the 2023-2024 Bright Futures Scholarship requirements.

Each tier has its own set of criteria and perks:

Florida Academic Scholars (FAS): This is the top tier. To qualify, students need a high GPA (3.5 and above), strong SAT/ACT scores and 100 volunteer service hours or 100 paid work hours. But trust me, the rewards are fantastic – covering 100% of tuition and applicable fees at public and private colleges.

Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS): A slightly more relaxed tier, yet still impressive. Students need a solid GPA (3.0 and above), a good SAT/ACT score and 75 volunteer service hours or 100 paid work hours. This tier covers a significant portion (75%) of tuition at public colleges and universities.

Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars (GSV): Tailored for those with a passion for vocational or technical education. It supports students pursuing eligible certificate programs and covers a portion of tuition and fees.

Now, Steven had over a 4.0 GPA and graduated in the Top 10% of his class, but his SAT score had him qualify for the second tier as a Florida Medallion Scholar. That means he was awarded a scholarship that covers 75% of his college tuition…Not just for one year, but for all four while he’s in school, as long as he meets the renewal requirements! SCORE!

How to use Bright Futures and Florida Prepaid

How to Secure Bright Futures

How do our budding scholars snag this fantastic opportunity? It’s all about meeting the criteria.

  • Keep those grades up! The higher the GPA, the better.
  • Study for those SAT/ACT exams. Khan Academy really helped Steven study. Bonus: it’s free!
  • Participate in community service – because giving back is always a good idea….and it’s required 😉 I strongly recommend having those hours completed before they enter their senior year in high school. Senioritis is a real thing, so it’s best to have as many boxes checked off before it kicks in.
Florida Prepaid College Plans and Bright Futures

Ok, now that you have it….how does it work with Florida Prepaid Plans?

As I mentioned above, we bought the tuition-only Prepaid Plan. And then Steven got the Bright Futures Scholarship that covers 75% of his tuition. So, how does it work if his tuition is already paid?

Well, I went to the Financial Aid seminar at his college orientation and this is how it was explained to me:

  1. Tuition is always paid first. They will always use the Florida Prepaid Plan funds first. If additional funds are needed here, they will pull from his Bright Futures.
  2. Next, housing is paid. This is where the Bright Futures funds will be used.
  3. Next, school fees. If there are additional scholarships they will be used here.
  4. If there is money left after all tuition, housing and fees are paid the difference is deposited into the student’s account (which you set up before they attend).

And guess what? That’s exactly how it worked!

So, even though Bright Futures says that the scholarship covers tuition, since his tuition was paid for thanks to our Florida Prepaid Plan, they used the Bright Futures award towards his housing. THANK YOU!

There wasn’t anything special we had to do or fill out, everything is tied to your student’s school Student Number. I had my son call the Financial Aid office more times than I care to admit just to confirm all the things. He was so happy with me 😉

Your student’s Florida Prepaid Plan funds will just be there…ready to use! Learn more on how to use your Florida 529 Prepaid Plan.

How to use Florida Prepaid College Plans and Bright Futures

So, when the semester started and my son logged into his account to see what we owed (pay those fees on-time to avoid a late fee! Speaking from experience….) we saw that the Florida Prepaid Plan funds were deducted immediately. Scholarships take a few more weeks, so don’t be alarmed if they aren’t there immediately, they will show up!

Now, I will admit that the scholarship funds weren’t there one week before fees were due for Spring semester (and I wasn’t paying that pesky late fee again), so we went ahead and paid his account in full. A few days later, he got a refund from the school.

To all the parents navigating the college landscape, remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. Prepare as much as you can, research Florida Prepaid Plans so that your student doesn’t start their adult life with a ton of student loans. Be sure to stay up to date with the Bright Futures requirements. Remind them (and yourself!) that with planning, hard work, dedication, and a dash of sunshine, our kids can achieve their dreams.

And remember: Open Enrollment for Florida Prepaid ends 4/30!

How to use Bright Futures and Florida Prepaid College Plans

Cheers to the next chapter – may it be filled with growth, learning, not a lot of debt and a sprinkle of sunshine!

Learn more about Florida Prepaid College Plans online and feel free to follow Florida Prepaid College Plans on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to stay up to date with information on Open Enrollment but get tips on college and more.

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